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UAVH H.L. Mencken, Scopes Trial – Genesis Triumphant (10 of 13)

Battle Now Over, Mencken Sees; Genesis Triumphant and Ready for New Jousts

Intro. song: “The John Scopes Trial”
Outro song: Vernon Dalhart “The Prisoner’s Song”

Notes: Someone just wrote me the following interesting note…

Have you read the book Panzram: A Journal of Murder? I just got done reading it and thought you might find one of my notes interesting which has to do with Mencken…

*Henry Lesser (Jewish prison guard) sent panzram’s written material to H. L. Mencken who wrote him a letter in return saying “This is one of the most amazing documents I have ever read.”

June 29th – Homo Neanderthalensis
July 9th – Sickening Doubts About Publicity
July 10th – Impossibility of Obtaining Fair Jury
July 11th – Trial as Religious Orgy
July 13th – Souls Need Reconversion Nightly
July 14th – Darrow’s Eloquent Appeal
July 15th – Law and Freedom
July 16th – Fair Trial Beyond Ken
July 17th – Malone the Victor
July 18th – Genesis Triumphant
July 20th – Tennessee in the Frying Pan
July 27th – Bryan
Sept. 14th - Aftermath

The full text of the report at the end of the blog!

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Dayton, Tenn., July 18. — All that remains of the great cause of the State of Tennessee against the infidel Scopes is the formal business of bumping off the defendant. There may be some legal jousting on Monday and some gaudy oratory on Tuesday, but the main battle is over, with Genesis completely triumphant. Judge Raulston finished the benign business yesterday morning by leaping with soft judicial hosannas into the arms of the prosecution. The sole commentary of the sardonic Darrow consisted of bringing down a metaphorical custard pie upon the occiput of the learned jurist.

“I hope,” said the latter nervously, “that counsel intends no reflection upon this court.”

Darrow hunched his shoulders and looked out of the window dreamily.

“Your honor,” he said, “is, of course, entitled to hope.”

No doubt the case will be long and fondly remembered by connoisseurs of judicial delicatessen — that is, as the performances of Weber and Fields are remembered by students of dramatic science. In immediate retrospect, it grows more fantastic and exhilarating. Scopes has had precisely the same fair trial that the Hon. John Philip Hill, accused of bootlegging on the oath of Howard A. Kelly, would have before the Rev. Dr. George W. Crabbe. He is a fellow not without humor; I find him full of smiles today. On some near tomorrow the Sheriff will collect a month’s wages from him, but he has certainly had a lot of fun.

More interesting than the hollow buffoonery that remains will be the effect upon the people of Tennessee, the actual prisoners at the bar. That the more civilized of them are in a highly feverish condition of mind must be patent to every visitor. The guffaws that roll in from all sides give them great pain. They are full of bitter protests and valiant projects. They prepare, it appears, to organize, hoist the black flag and offer the fundamentalists of the dung-hills a battle to the death. They will not cease until the last Baptist preacher is in flight over the mountains, and the ordinary intellectual decencies of Christendom are triumphantly restored.

With the best will in the world I find it impossible to accept this tall talk with anything resembling confidence. The intelligentsia of Tennessee had their chance and let it get away from them. When the old mountebank, Bryan, first invaded the State with his balderdash they were unanimously silent. When he began to round up converts in the back country they offered him no challenge. When the Legislature passed the anti-evolution bill and the Governor signed it, they contented themselves with murmuring pianissimo. And when the battle was joined at last and the time came for rough stuff only one Tennesseean of any consequence volunteered.

That lone volunteer was Dr. John Neal, now of counsel for the defense, a good lawyer and an honest man. His services to Darrow, Malone and Hays have been very valuable and they come out of the case with high respect for him. But how does Tennessee regard him? My impression is that Tennessee vastly underestimating incredibly that a farmer who read the Bible knew more than any scientist in the world. Such dreadful bilge, heard of far away, may seem only ridiculous. But it takes on a different smack, I assure you, when one hears it discharged formally in a court of law and sees it accepted as wisdom by judge and jury.

Darrow has lost this case. It was lost long before he came to Dayton. But it seems to me that he has nevertheless performed a great public service by fighting it to a finish and in a perfectly serious way. Let no one mistake it for comedy, farcical though it may be in all its details. It serves notice on the country that Neanderthal man is organizing in these forlorn backwaters of the land, led by a fanatic, rid sense and devoid of conscience. Tennessee, challenging him too timorously and too late, now sees its courts converted into camp meetings and its Bill of Rights made a mock of by its sworn officers of the law. There are other States that had better look to their arsenals before the Hun is at their gates.

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  1. […] – Law and Freedom July 16th – Fair Trial Beyond Ken July 17th – Malone the Victor July 18th – Genesis Triumphant July 20th – Tennessee in the Frying Pan July 27th – Bryan Sept. 14th* - Aftermath […]

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